By Jo Murphy 17 Jul, 2017
Love doesn’t exist. Love calls everything into existence.

Quite the declaration, isn’t it? Love doesn’t exist . So, how does that work? Think of it this way. Love is not an object that stands outside of us – even though we think it is, as we hunt it down like starved animals. We’re hungry for it, for sure, but we forget that both our appetite and the ability to satiate it are found in the same place. Ourselves .

We are the subjects doing the loving. We call everything into existence.

But it’s not always easy, is it? Deadlines need to be met and dinners need to be cooked, and so we call forth mundanity, stress and exhaustion. Believe me, I know. Having written a harsh review of humanity last time, I was acutely aware of the lack of love in my own life.

Beneath that flowery pinny my heart had been breaking.

Everything felt so restrained, so strained. But whatever I was experiencing, I was the one calling it into existence. I was literally starving myself of love, like so many of us, through the ways we do or do not relate to our lives, to others, to ourselves; the risks we are willing to take or not take; the way we colour our canvas inside or outside the lines .

Consider, for a moment, the restraints you impose on your life with daily routines and regimens and diets and goodness knows what else drains the colour from your days. It’s all so risk adverse. But we get rewarded for these things, for being good , for being seen to be the same as everyone else.

That’s how the lines give us context. They promise to deliver personal progression within a particular situation or circumstance. But these lines also become limitations. They isolate, encourage competition, inspiring us to call forth resentment, jealousy, fear, pride – all the gremlins – but none of these things exist either .

We call them into existence.

If we breach the lines, however, we call forth a new experience, something different, something more . But ‘more’ isn’t your next promotion. It isn’t your new conservatory. It isn’t an accolade or an object. These things are nice, very nice, but ‘more’ means joy, aliveness, relationship .

It means creating a world that’s more compassionate and inclusive  where we remember to look up and see each other. Yes, we want to be the same as everyone else, but we’ve forgotten how we’re the same as everyone else. Our humanity is the thing that binds and unites us. Conformity inhibits it. Diversity informs it.

Everything hinges on relationship. But relationship brings risk .

It brings exposure to whatever or whoever is outside the lines. And so we choose instead to meet each other (and ourselves) only as far as our current limitations allow – like me in that tearoom. We play it safe and continue to starve.

Wow, heavy, right? How on earth do we carry on?

Holidays, that’s how. We get on planes and trains and get the hell out of here so we can colour outside the lines for two weeks out of every fifty-two. We go forth and put ourselves in the way of beauty so we can feel beautiful.

We get away from our lives in order to remember them. We get away from each other for the same reason.

As our external environment shifts, we notice our internal environment differently. As our internal environment shifts, we notice our external environment differently.

Breaking from routine throws us into the unknown and demands that we tune into ourselves (and each other) on a deeper level. When unfamiliar objects and people surround us, we must pay more attention to our subjective experience of it all. We are no longer going through the motions. We can no longer numb out. So we begin to ask, who’s colouring this canvas? How have I not seen all of this before?

Trust me friends, this happened to me last week. After months and months of misery I hung up my pinny, got on a plane and got the hell out of here. And I fell in love with humanity all over again. I began to relate all over again . Everywhere I looked compassion kept catching me right at the back of the throat.

Christ, I thought, we’re hilarious and gorgeous and daft and beautiful.

I noted how different we are on holiday. We drop the pretence and the posturing. Our excitement catches us off guard. Our vulnerability is heightened by the risk of it all. New horizons become new lines for us to cross and we do the crossing together . There’s no push-shove , and, if there is a queue, it’s an opportunity to make friends. Have you been here before? Where do you come from?

Small talk takes on new resonance as we cross the lines between self and other . A shift takes place. We take interest in each other’s difference. We delight in it. We begin to see each other all over again. More than that, we allow ourselves to be seen . A shared joke, a random kindness, forging connections makes the adventure seem less risky. The lines become blurred .

We call forth more.

I certainly did. And all it took was one week for me to replenish my love reserves. Truly. My craving for travel had been bone deep for months and months. It has historically been a form of escape for me – a way to run away from everyone and everything – but I knew it would be different this time. It would allow me to run towards everyone and everything.

I needed to get away from my life in order to remember it. I needed to create physical distance to cover the emotional distance.

A change of context is always a gift since it gives us context, but not in the way we imagine. While we want it to separate us from the pain, it actually brings us closer to the love. Yes, the place may be different, but our humanity remains a constant . We are always there, with each other, wherever we go. And whatever our relationship with a particular place may be, it’s merely a reflection of the relationship we have entered into with each other, with ourselves, at that time.

Sunsets, mountains and oceans, we believe, are the elixir we desire, objects that exist outside of us. But it is us who calls forth their magic. If we let our crayons wander, we also begin to wonder, what if life could always be like this? We feel insignificant and significant all at the same time. We’re overcome by a sense that the world is so much bigger than we’d remembered. But we’re also reminded that we have a place in it.

We belong to it. We belong to each other.

Okay, you say, it’s easy to feel warm and fuzzy watching the sun dance on the waves, but how the hell do we call forth the love when the holiday ends?

We remember that the daily parameters we place on ourselves and our lives are not compulsory. We are free to break the ‘rules’ a little, to colour outside the lines at any time. And if this feels risky then know that the disruption of risk is only ever temporary . And it always liberates us in the end.

Whatever we see outside of ourselves, whatever we experience, is simply something that we have called into existence by loving or not loving ourselves, each other, our lives, in that moment.

We are free to look up and see the world with new eyes at any time, wherever we are. We wield the crayons that colour the canvas, so we can call forth a world with lines or no lines, love or no love. Either way, our future depends on it.

By Jo Murphy 03 Jul, 2017
Few (if any) of you know that I’ve been wearing a flowery pinny and making frothy coffee three days a week, every week for the past 15 months. I’d voted to keep myself in pocket money while I polished the book proposal, but while this ‘little job’ was my safety net, it often felt like a shameful secret.

And my pride often got the better of me.

Pride, the dictionary tells us, is the belief that you’re better or ‘more than’ anyone else. I beg to differ. Pride is a defence mechanism born of the fear that we really are much ‘less than’ everyone else. It makes you haughty and secretive, and ashamed of having a bridge job.

But really, who cares ?

We do what we have to do in order to get where we want to go. Which is where humility comes in. This, the dictionary tells us, is the quality of having a modest view of one’s importance; free from pride or arrogance.

Importantly, however, this doesn’t mean seeing ourselves as unimportant – it means knowing and valuing ourselves enough to not need pride or arrogance. But we fight humility. We fear it, believing that being humble means admitting we’re not enough. Pride seems like the safer option.

The customers certainly knew this, but not all of them, since I must acknowledge a handful of regulars with a deep bow of gratitude. Every day they came with ready smiles, bringing joy to an otherwise humdrum exchange. As for the others, well, people generally treat each other like shit, don’t they?

On a busy day it became the norm to be barked at, patronised or dismissed as a second rate citizen simply for serving up cake. At first I thought it was the pinny. Do we see people earning minimum wage as having minimum status, I wondered, the cleaners and cooks and caretakers?

Or maybe it had something to do with my gender? No, it wasn’t that. The female customers could be as abhorrent as the male. Was it because I couldn’t make seven drinks with two hands in less than five minutes? Or maybe it had nothing to do with me at all and was all about them ?

So I paid attention and began taking field notes.

On a daily basis I witnessed the pain of people acting out their insecurities, protecting their most private selves with public shows of one-upmanship . Skipping the queue. Questioning the prices. Complaining about everything .

People wielded their impatience like a weapon with which they could intimidate me. But, you see, impatience is a crucial part of the fight against humility. It says I will not wait for my slice of the pie. I am deserving of it right now .

But fighting for first place serves no one. There’s a space in the queue for all of us and we all get to the front in the end. Until then, we do what we have to do to get where we want to go.

At least this is what I kept telling myself as I dug deep to find my compassion in the face of all this bad behaviour. I wanted to understand why so many of us are so deeply committed to hurting ourselves (and each other). I watched those who were clearly oblivious to anything outside of their own sphere of existence.

Humans have a knack of being totally self-absorbed and yet totally self-unaware. It’s all push-shove, sod the queue and sod you.

Sounds harsh, I know, but it’s also fair. We’re all caught up in life’s fundamental paradox of self and other . While we mostly think only of ourselves, we do so primarily through the lens of how we’re perceived by others – aka whether you think I’m important or not . And while we’ve learnt to compete, to exclude, to separate, we desperately crave acceptance and inclusion.

And this is precisely why we push and shove, so we don’t get forgotten or left out. This ‘them and us’ mentality is all consuming. We’re so engrossed in the business of self-defence (and getting to the front of the queue) that we imagine attack where there is none. And when we make enemies out of everyone, we undermine our shared experience .

Really, you say, all this from a tearoom ?

Oh yes. I watched and listened and learned. We need that queue so we have a place alongside everyone else. And we need each other to know ourselves. Our point of difference is our point of recognition – and this doesn’t make us any less important or any less worthy as individuals. Pride, you see, is vastly overrated.

We need to get over ourselves and get to know ourselves instead, to become both aware and self-aware.

Trust me, I learned a thing or two about myself while frothing that milk. After months of scrutinising the customers, I let them become my mirrors, my teachers. As I watched them, I witnessed my own pride and my own impatience – more than that, my fear of being left at the back of the queue for the book deal.

With every flat white (which is what, exactly, a coffee with milk?) I had to move through my pride (not swallow it) to remember that we are always in transition – that we do what we have to do to get where we want to go, but it need not be a struggle. And this is another of life’s precious paradoxes.

Every day we walk the line between what we really want to happen (book deal, swift service) and what needs to happen first (write the book, wait in the queue).

If we get too mired in either extreme, we get stuck in a place where we could never be happy. If we always get what we want, we’ll always be hankering for more. If we’re always hankering for more, we’ll never get what we want. There has to be a balance, a middle path that we can happily walk between the two.

While pride wants everything now, humility is much more chill. It sees the setbacks and queues and delays simply as lived experience. Nothing is wasted . Humility doesn’t do defeat, defence or attack. It tells us life can be two things at once (self and other). It tells us we can be two things at once (pinny wearer and writer). This can be as enriching as it is painful.

It’s also as empowering as it is humbling.

So now that the book proposal’s finished and I’ve hung up my pinny, both have changed me (arguably) for the better. It all counts. Everything counts . Remember this, my friends, and embrace the paradox wherever you are in the queue.

There’s no shame in it.

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